High-throughput dense wireless networks

Year 2006
Project team Dina Katabi

Breaking the logjam

Wireless networks are increasingly critical to modern communications, from cellular phones to distributed sensors and emailing from the local coffee shop. Yet, as the number of wireless devices increase, and devices use network connectivity more often, the network is more heavily taxed and overall throughput begins to fall drastically in dense settings. This simple fact of current network design poses a serious threat to hopes of urban Wi-Fi networks and similar emerging applications. This logjam of data packets can be broken by “opportunistic listening” and “opportunistic coding”. Nodes in the wireless network snoop on all communications they hear over the wireless medium, and store the heard packets for a limited interval. The nodes also annotate the packets they send to tell their neighbors which packets they have heard. When a routing node forwards a packet, it uses its knowledge of what its neighbors have heard to perform opportunistic coding; the router node can intelligently select and mix multiple packets and send them in a single transmission. This more efficient delivery allows higher throughput. This project will build a prototype of the high throughput dense network using the 802.11 protocol, and integrated with the UDP and TCP protocols standard in commercial networks today. A test network will also be deployed to evaluate the implementation.